New Zealand Law Society - The Law & I - Ella Arbuckle Page

The Law & I - Ella Arbuckle Page

We continue our series where we ask members of the legal profession 10 questions about their life and career.

Ella Arbuckle Page was born in Nelson, but lived in Wellington before moving overseas when she was 13. She spent two years in Rome, Italy and then shifted to Bethesda, Maryland for three and a half years. She returned to New Zealand to study at Victoria University after finishing up high school in the United States. She was admitted in the Old High Court in Wellington in 2017.

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Ella Arbuckle Page
Ella Arbuckle Page

Why did you choose law and the area(s) of law you practise?

I initially chose a variety of subjects at university to gain a better understanding of what interested me. I ended up with law, and a BA in economics and international relations with a minor in philosophy. Further study is definitely on the cards. I wanted to start my legal practice in the private sector and have been lucky enough to find a place in the Commercial Litigation team at Simpson Grierson.

If you were not working in law, what would be your alternative career and why?

There are so many options I’m interested in! If I rewound to the beginning of my first year of university and didn’t take that turn down Law Street, I might have instead found myself in physics. I had a keen interest at the time, and physics was near the top of my list of subjects that I wanted to try out. But, practically, if I wasn’t working in law at this stage I would go with something related to my economics study.

What case or proceeding sticks most in your mind?

The Kermadec proceedings surrounding the introduction of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill are pretty interesting, from a few angles. The proceedings are interesting from a public law perspective regarding the principle of comity and the court’s role in commenting on the legal effect of historical Treaty settlements. The proceedings are also underpinned by interesting economic theory regarding the effectiveness of marine protected areas and various conservation incentives, with, of course, a political backdrop.

What do you love about your job and why?

I love the variety of work that comes from being in a litigation team, as well as the fast pace and constant learning opportunities. I couldn’t ask for a better team, and it has been really valuable working with people who are genuinely interested in what they do.

Is there anything you dislike about your work and why?

Both a positive and a negative of workflow in a firm is that research needs to be turned around quickly. On the plus side, my speed at finding answers has improved exponentially, as has my ability to navigate the research services available. The flip side is that there isn’t always enough time to explore all of the intriguing rabbit holes or get a comprehensive idea of the bigger picture.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing New Zealand lawyers?

Emerging technologies in the legal profession have been a much-discussed topic of late. I know that taking those initial steps (and sometimes risks) to modernise your practice can be difficult, but the payoffs are usually well worth it. I’ve heard of document management technology available in the United Kingdom that put our systems to shame, and look forward to seeing these improvements arriving on New Zealand shores to help reduce the tedious moments of the job; technological improvements will help us focus on the real issues.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a lawyer?

Have I mentioned rabbit holes? Rabbit holes, and when/when not to go down them. Unfortunately, the interesting parts of the job are not always the most relevant.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given in relation to practising law?

It’s important to be adaptable, especially in litigation, as our workflow and areas of expertise change dramatically over time.

Lawyers are often described as workaholics. Is that you? How do you switch off?

It’s a cliché, but a true one: the busier I am, the happier I am – but only if there’s enough variety in what’s keeping me busy. Alongside my work in the office, I really enjoy working with community law, volunteering at Ronald McDonald House, and being part of the Young Lawyers’ Committee to promote the interests of young lawyers in Wellington.
How do I switch off? I am all about hobbies. Last year I picked up scuba diving, completed my first ocean swim (the 3k Big Tahuna), and bought a piano. This year, I have been taking lessons on making jewellery, and travelled 1600 miles in 6 days on a road trip across California, Arizona and Nevada. I’m definitely keen to tick a few more Great Walks off my list, as well as some of those walks that are just as good but don’t have official Great Walk status (I was up in the Tararua Forest Park in May, walking the Holdsworth circuit in the snow).

Where is the most exotic place you have been to for a holiday? Tell us about it.

Thanks to the off-set academic calendars, I had some time to spare between finishing up high school in the States and starting university at Vic. So, after working for a few months I travelled with a friend of mine and his family to the Dominican Republic. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to, and I hope to holiday there again someday… or perhaps it would be a good retirement option (or even a honeymoon destination?!).

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